Love your neighbor

Many years ago when I was in London, I walked into a bookshop and saw a book entitled My Mother, Myself. This is an intelligent title. Your mother, yourself. You can write another book, My Daughter, Myself. Or My Son, Myself; My Father, Myself. It is the actual reality. When you get angry with your son, you are getting angry with yourself. When you punish your son, you punish yourself. When you inflict suffering on your father, you inflict suffering on yourself. We understand this when we have the insight of non-self, the insight that the self is made up of non-self elements, like our father, mother, all our ancestors, as well as the sun, the air, and the earth.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames (Riverhead 2001), 122

Thomas Merton wrote about the shadow self. I’ve come to believe that until and unless I can accept myself as I am and not as I would like to be I will not be at peace. When I attack others it is often because I see that which I despise in myself. I can not know peace until I accept myself as I am. I think this acceptance is the key to accepting others as well. It reminds me of the what Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If I can’t love myself I can’t love my neighbor. The root of peace then is loving myself. Not narcissistic love but a healthy love for myself as I am fashioned in the image and likeness of my creator.

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